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View Full Version : The Tau, the source of their strength is their greatest weekness



mukelnas
07-05-2009, 14:56
Ok, we all know the Tau have progressed a great deal in a very short time because of the Ethereals and the near utopian society they have created. The greatest asset to their success has been their ability to move the entire race towards the same goal, the greater good. The Etheareals have, of course, achieved this through the complete control of the other Tau by using pheromones, in much the same way as ants. In fact there are many similarities between ants and Tau society. (Ok the codex says pheromones, or latent psychic power. For the purposes of this discussion we are going with pheromones, as psychic power doesn’t make sense for a race with little or no warp presence)

After rereading my codex for the first time in several years something strange occurred to me.

Let me set the scene.

A tau expeditionary force overseen by an Ethereal lands on an uncharted planet. The Tau send out the kroot scouts while they busy themselves setting up a base of operations. Meanwhile, not far away, a settlement of Orks sees the Tau ships as they enter the atmosphere, and seeing as how WAAAAAGHs don’t wait for Intel they set out at once. Watching as the Tau ships come down and with a distinct home planet advantage the Orks find the Tau landing zones in no time. By the time the Kroot scouts get back to base the Orks have killed all the Tau and gone back home. With no Tau stopping them the Kroot begin devouring the bodies of the fallen, as is their tradition.

In theory, all it would take is for a wise old Shaper to have a few bites of wise old Ethereal, and in a generation or two you could have Kroot that produce the Tau control pheromone. The kroot might not even be aware of it at first, “Hey our Tau buddies are extra nice today”. It wouldn’t take long for them to catch on, eat the boss = be the boss. If this got out of hand I could see all kinds of crazy situations. How about a war between the Kroot and the Ethereals, where the other Tau are used as pawns by both, or a total reversal of rolls, groups of Tau fighting as mercenaries in service of the mighty Kroot empire.

If this seems a little farfetched for the Kroot, how about the Tyranids? Certainly the masters of genetic manipulation could reproduce the Tau pheromone. What would the hivemind do with a race of enslaved Tau? Simply have them jump into the nearest digestion pool, or something more sinister? Perhaps placing them in a roll similar to that of the old Zoats, as emissaries of the Hivefleet. “Hi I am a Tau, we represent equality, unity, giant bug monsters , and the greater good, have a pamphlet, and let's be friends. “

So what do you think Warseer? Legitimate threat to the Tau Empire, or crazy ramblings of someone who thinks way too hard about a silly game?

Elessar
07-05-2009, 15:04
Wow. Thats a really interesting theory. I must admit a deficit in knowledge about the Tau, but is it possible that the pheromones work more on a power of persuasion type level? So the Tau wouldn't necessarily be controlled by the Kroot, but the Kroot would gain themselves a great deal of leverage when haggling for better wages.

genestealer_baldric
07-05-2009, 15:10
i think there will be no more zoat-tyranid things so they would march in odered rank dircetley in digestion pools.

but i reckon that the tau/kroot hersay is a possiblity and a rather kool idea.

Condottiere
07-05-2009, 15:15
It's an interesting concept, since pheronomes do shape certain behaviour patterns on Earth.

Xisor
07-05-2009, 15:59
It's rather endearingly feasible. The trouble, of course, being simply that the Tau still 'obey the Ethereals' with their helmets on, inside Battlesuits etc.

Except in the most extreme conditions, I'm pretty confident that the pheromone trick is not much more than a 'can dazzle your senses and twist your brain' thing (e.g. good for getting past guards and defusing arguments).

That does, however, mean you could have folks living amongst the Tau who abuse this pheromone opening.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant_mimicry

Actually, having read that article quickly, my idea has evolved your proposal somewhat! Rather than a weakness, merely another aspect of the Tau Empire. Almost unknown to them is that they may have many refugees, fugitives, parasites and so forth 'living amongst them' due to those who do see these pests simply being pheromone-blasted to keep moving. It needn't be tapping into the Ethereal's batch, but perhaps even just some odd bit of the Tau biology which appeared but was vestigal or simply hadn't been used.

Hell, there could've been another species living within Tau society since even before the Ethereals...just no-one noticed!

I like the idea of some form of galactic criminals, fugitives or refugees hiding out in the Tau Empire.

Xelloss
07-05-2009, 16:00
“Hi I am a Tau, we represent equality, unity, giant bug monsters , and the greater good. “

Join the Universal Brotherhood !

a squig
07-05-2009, 16:24
there are things hiding in the tau empire, a genestealer cult

Condottiere
07-05-2009, 17:14
Genestealers are all for the greater good, mostly their own.

Hellebore
07-05-2009, 17:24
Imagine genestealer ethereal hybrids. The ethereals breed amongst themselves like all the other castes (as breeding between castes is punishable by death). So getting a hold of a few ethereal families would produce ethereal hybrids capable of controlling everything.

Hellebore

Nexus Trimean
07-05-2009, 17:26
There is no good Greater than that of a Genestealer cult.

Brother Siccarius
07-05-2009, 18:15
The tightly controlled Tau breeding would limit the spread of a genesteeler cult beyond about a second generation hybrid.

vampires are cool!
07-05-2009, 18:19
This would make one hell of a summer campaigne; You just have ranks of Imerial players watching the Tau bitch-slap themselves at the behest of the Stealer-Ethereals.

AndrewGPaul
07-05-2009, 18:27
It's rather endearingly feasible. The trouble, of course, being simply that the Tau still 'obey the Ethereals' with their helmets on, inside Battlesuits etc.

They've had a few dozen generations conditioned to obey the Ethereals in all things, so by now, any pheromone effect is unlikely to be the only reason the Tau obey the Ethereals.

mukelnas
07-05-2009, 18:40
I have decided to type something about Tau background for people unfamiliar with some of the fluff. All this stuff comes right out of the codices, but this is my take on it, GW can be kind of vague sometimes, damn them for making me use my imagination.

You may have read any number of threads about whether the Tau are communist, socialist, imperialist, or whatever. Well I’ll tell you … they are ANTS. Yep that’s right ants.

tell me this doesn't sound like Tau, without all the stinging. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ant)


Just look at the effect the Ethereals have on them. The Ethereals are not some ancient part of Tau culture. They literally just showed up out of nowhere. They calmly walked into the middle of a battle that had been raging for five seasons, as the codex says. After an hour there was a cease fire. After a day the war was over. After a year all war on the planet stopped. It states specifically in the codex an Ethereal can order a normal Tau to commit suicide and be obeyed without hesitation. Tau are the only major 40K race I can think of that don’t regularly fight themselves. That seems like a strong argument for a phenomenal response. As for them having helmets on or being in battle suits, the pheromone is a chemical that stays in your system for a wile. At least I think of it that way. Tau are loyal, and not like “For the Emperor” loyal, like mindless loyal. Sure the pheremone isn't the only reason the Tau obey, but it makes a big impression. If someone else could produce the pheromones I think they could just as easily condition some Tau to follow them. I often hear Tau compared to the Federation from Star Trek, but I think of them more as the Dominion from Deep Space 9. The Ethereals as Changelings, and the Fire warriors as Jem’Hadar. In fact Tau do crazy, insane, ridiculous stuff when the Ethereals are not around, just look at commander Farsight, he fights Orks all day long, in hand to hand. The Ethereals are so used to having everyone obey them unquestionably the even outfitted all the Vespid leaders with strange possibly mind controlling helmets.

Oh and I cant beleive I didn't think of Ethereal Geanstealer cults, The Ethereals make the rules, they wouldn't even have to hide it. The possiabilites are endless.

edit: eldar don't really fight each other, whell mabey the dark ones a little bit.

Firaxin
07-05-2009, 18:41
Holy crap.
*bows*
That is a brilliant idea which I plan on immediately stealing for my campaign.
:angel:

Bregalad
07-05-2009, 20:51
There is a problem with that theory: Ethereals don't control the Tau Empire by pheromones and Tau are not like ants. While pheromones may (or may not) play a supporting role in close interaction, the idea of a whole quadrant smelling of Tau ethereals and full of mindless perfume zombie slaves is ridiculous. It's the whole culture that forms Tau society, as one would suspect. It is not even certain if the pheromone organ is genetically imprinted, as it might be an implanted Xeno organ (see Xenology theory).

The Emperor
08-05-2009, 04:44
I'd considered this possibility with the Tyranids, but hadn't given the Kroot a single passing thought. Good job, there! And yeah, it would be interesting to see what would happen if the Kroot would eat some Ethereals and gain their influence/control ability over the Tau. Although if the Eldar are responsible for the creation of the Tau Ethereals, then they may be on the lookout for something like that and may be waiting in the wings, ready to step in, to prevent a situation like that from occurring.

Vote Kantor
08-05-2009, 09:40
Evil, Controlling with smell, you know who i'm thinking?
Ring a bell (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAHNI_sbI7I)?

Apart from that, I'm gonna get me some shapers!

mukelnas
08-05-2009, 13:45
a note to Bregalad and anyone else who shares his oppinion.

I know I am most likley overstating the importance of the pheromones, and understating Tau culture, however, this is how I like to think of the Tau. GW leaves a lot of ambiguity in it's background. Sure the Tau have strong cultural ties, but it doesn't say that it isn't because of a natural mind controal drug. GW are the ones who gave me the idea in the first place, by mentioning the pheromones in the codex. If they are so unimportant, why even mention them? My theroy isn't necessarily wrong, or aginst the background, just a diffrent interpretation. It makes the Tau more interesting for me personally. If you don't like my ideas just consider it a fun little "what if" senerio. I am not trying to preach cannon here.

mechaace
08-05-2009, 13:50
The only problem with the theory of the Ethereals control everybody through pheremones is that I doubt every single citizen in the Tau Empire sees an Ethereal every day of their lives, unless they're lining up to smell the Ethereal to get their kick of pheremones.

Granted I believe they do have some form of control over the Tau, which seems to be through pheremones, but I think that was used initially in the unification of the race (at the great big siege of the city). I think now the race just generally sticks together cause they're now generally devoted to the idea of the greater good.

EDIT: Realised you're post appeared after mine. If that's your point then heyho I'm not gonna stop you, as I've stated above in my eyes I just don't see it working.

Gue'Vesa'Vre Kilo
08-05-2009, 14:49
I would say that pheremones are more of a catalyst than a serious element of "control" over the Tau population, therefore the theory is not quite possible in my opinion. the invasion of behemoth must have caused some casualties in the Ethereal caste, if what is mentioned is true, then the Tau empire should be now under Tyranid control by now.

Cythus
08-05-2009, 17:25
I have a different hormone idea which could ciover the original arguements weakness

Tau have to 'have' glands which produce hormones. One of these glands constantly produce hormone X in low amounts.

This hormonone creates the physcological condition in which one seeks to conform to the ideal of what society suggests is best. This would mean for Tau who have lived in usual tau society they would follow the greater good as this is what their society suggests is best. With this they will do what is best from society but its not a perfectly strong control. I.e they won't kill themselves just becuase someone says that it is best for society, but if someone proved it was then they would.

However, the ethereals produce a pheremone which causes this gland to produce huge quantities of pheremone X. With this high levels of hormone X a tau will do anything for the greater good with no thought to weather it actually is. Thgerefore, ethereals can tell tau to commit suicide and they will.

Additionally, it can explain other backgroung for the tau/ has other consequenses:

If as tau has not been near an ethereal for a long time and have strong 'charisma' (for want of a better word0 then they may break away as the levels of hormone X in their bodies is noit enough to suppress thisd independence.
This could be what happened to commander farsight.

Additionally, if society does not suggest that the greateer good is best, it suggests C. Then the hormones in the taun will cause them to follow C.
The tau following commander farsight have been taught a different set of values by him and so the hormones will make them follows these vvalues, suggesting why his 'empire' has lasted so long.

Finally, it also covers exploitation of pheremone control by other races. Imperials could get hold of the pheremones that ethereals produce but the tau will not obey them, in fact, it will make their support for the greater good stronger. The fact that tau obey ethereals is not becuase the pheremone forces them to obey them in person (as the effect appears) but that it makes them stick to their values which includes obeying ethereals.

However, if the imperium or choas could change what tau hold as to be what society wants then they could gain obedience of the tau, leaving creative licence open.

Condottiere
08-05-2009, 17:40
I was wondering if by selective breeding, the Ethereals eliminate genetic lines less inclined to follow their directives.

pazshadow
08-05-2009, 19:54
I've allways seen the ethereal pheremone organ as a tool for perfect gov't, not mass mind control. According to Xenology, the eldar created the ethereal caste after stealing the pheremone organ from the Q'orl swarmqueen.

The Eldar must have a plan for the tau as a tool for the destruction of chaos (thier own 'necrontyr' in essence), masters of realspace tech. The tau don't follow the ethereals because they are constantly controlled by them, but because the goverment allways agrees (being ruled and guided behind the scenes by the ethereals).

Imagine a powerful country on earth, where your goverment allways agrees, and any nay-sayers are swayed to the "greater good" after a whiff of the ethereal's 'organ' (that sounded kinda dirty:eek:). resources go where they are supposed to, and the country works like a well oiled machine, unchecked by prejudice or religious fears.

O'shovah is the perfect example of this. once the ethereals who guided his fleet were dead, he began making decisions based on personal hatreds and prejudices, instead of thinking about the big picture.

I think that if the kroot devoured an ethereal, they might possibly try and sway tau representatives, but the tau hierarchy would notice and take the Kroot to task.

MarshallSam
08-05-2009, 20:36
Its funny cause I just watched Star Trek Nemesis and it sounds sorta similar to the plot. The Remans taking over the Romulan Senate

massey
08-05-2009, 21:20
With control over leaders, you don't need control over every person every day.

Let's say you've got Captain Pheremone, and he decides he needs to run the USA. First thing he does is walk into the Capitol in Washington DC so he can talk to his Congressman (for those who have never been to DC, yes, you can do that, though you have to have them wave a metal detector at you and all that stuff now). So he walks up and says "Hi Congressman Bob, I think you should let me address the House of Representatives." And Congressman Bob says "Okay." So two days later he's walking the aisles of the US House, shaking hands and letting people smell him, and then he's walking across the building to the Senate, where he does the same thing. Two days after that he's shaking hands with President Obama and telling him about this fantastic new plan called "the Greater Good".

Does that mean he's mind controlling every man, woman, and child? Nah. He doesn't have to. He just keeps in close contact with political leaders and makes sure everyone toes the line. Some state Governor speaking out? Causing trouble? Meet with the guy and he'll soon see it your way. Now, Americans usually expect some fighting and arguing from their legislature. So you don't have to make them agree on everything, just the important things. Heck, you could even engineer a bit of political theater. People expect scandal, after all, and you don't want anyone to think something is up. So maybe Senator George is found handcuffed to a motel bed wearing a woman's dress. For the Greater Good, you know. He loses his reelection bid, someone else takes his place.

In the end, you could steer the country very easily. And that's with only one guy. If you've got a hundred or so of these pheremone people, it'd be easy. In America, you'd only have to really watch out for the CIA, or some other intelligence agency who might secretly investigate what you've been up to. But the Tau never developed those agencies (or once they did, they were already loyal).

Most Tau, I would believe, might never see an Ethereal. They've just been socially conditioned to obey. That social conditioning is backed up by pheremone power. So when a random citizen does happen to meet an Ethereal, it's like a 13 year old girl meeting the New Kids on the Block (or Backstreet Boys, or whoever it is now). After a few generations, they'll believe whatever they're told by their leaders. Things like "questioning authority" are never taught.

People like Farsight are rare, and dangerous. For one, he's strong willed enough so that he went off on his own crazy ideas once his Ethereals died, instead of doing what he was supposed to do and calling home for another leader. For another, now he probably suspects, so he's probably going to keep his helmet on if he ever encounters another. And if, God forbid, he tells people, some normal citizens might start wearing respirators or something like that, which would cause all sorts of anarchy.

xeno106
09-05-2009, 13:41
Well you know, I think the Tau are more like the Chinese and Tibetian. You have a huge country ruled by some sort of party (etherals) and some enclave which isn't following your track (farsight) and to beef everything up give the party some mindcontrolling tools, like some sack in your face. On a more serious note: The whole thing with or without mindcontrolling works really like in china: control the media (some story about tau-tv where everything is more or less setup), control breeding (birthcontrol) and some caste system to keep everyone in check. So it seems like you don't have to sniff an etheral once a day to work as you should be working.

mukelnas
09-05-2009, 13:47
Let's say you've got Captain Pheremone, and he decides he needs to run the USA. First thing he does is walk into the Capitol in Washington DC so he can talk to his Congressman (for those who have never been to DC, yes, you can do that, though you have to have them wave a metal detector at you and all that stuff now). So he walks up and says "Hi Congressman Bob, I think you should let me address the House of Representatives." And Congressman Bob says "Okay." So two days later he's walking the aisles of the US House, shaking hands and letting people smell him, and then he's walking across the building to the Senate, where he does the same thing. Two days after that he's shaking hands with President Obama and telling him about this fantastic new plan called "the Greater Good".

I would like to take this up a notch. After spending some time around Captain Pheremone all those senators kind of smell like him, untill they shower or somthing. When they go instruct the people under them, they get the same kind of responce, but not as strong.

I think Farsight does know what's going on, that's why he never came back.


posted by Gue'Vesa'Vre Kilo
I would say that pheremones are more of a catalyst than a serious element of "control" over the Tau population, therefore the theory is not quite possible in my opinion. the invasion of behemoth must have caused some casualties in the Ethereal caste, if what is mentioned is true, then the Tau empire should be now under Tyranid control by now.

as for the Tyranids already controling the Tau, I think it would depend on how much the hive mind understands what is going on. It has to deem somthing 'usefull' before it starts reproducing it. I have no dout the Tyranids could produce the pheromones, and use it on the entire population, I've never really been sure they would know what to do next. Tyranids don't really talk or anything, and Tau aren't really receptive to the warp (Hivemind telepathy). Now I think something like a geanstealer cult could work.

By the way, how "offical" is Xenology, isn't this the thing that says Tau have hooves? I have heard a lot of people debate it.

DoombringerATT
09-05-2009, 16:50
Xenology says Tau have hooves (which is correct, they do), but the illustration of the Ethereal in the book by one of the many artists Xenology used shows an Ethereal with toes.

It was a simple editorial mistake.

For the most part, Xenology is pretty reliable as canon, but always keep in mind that a lot of the content of the background books of Black Library should probably be taken as 'interpretations' of the fluff, rather than gospel.

Hell, Xenology even hints at the revival of the Star Child theory! (check out the Eldar tablet, with the depiction of the human Emperor as a baby enclosed in a sun) :)

===

I'm going to stay out of the pheromone debate for the most part.

It is my humble opinion that the Tau are so conditioned from birth to follow the tenets of the Tau'va (almost religious indoctrination and meditation, psychotherapy, didactic implants which may or may not have ulterior motives, constant reminders of what disobedience and dissent can bring (Mont'au), etc.). Basically, the Tau are already so, for lack of a better, nicer word, brainwashed into thinking that the Tau'va is right and just, that they don't really need an Ethereal walking around spraying 'feel good' hormones in their faces to follow his orders, they'll do it anyway because they genuinely believe that the Ethereal knows better than they do.

The pheromonal power of the Aun was probably at the peak of its usefulness during the Mont'au, when they were then able to just waltz right into the city of Fio'taun and the Shas tribal camps unmolested. Now, on the other hand, I believe the pheromonal control ability to be secondary or even tertiary in nature to all the other methods of control Tau society exerts on its subordinates.

endless
09-05-2009, 17:08
So, I confess I don't know much about the Tau but the idea that a society could be purely controlled by pheromones can't really work, as you've highlighted. Social organisation must play a part, but, in the case of the Tau, isn't something else in play? A race without psychic signature, which has developed the abilities of a tech based society in such a short time etc etc. Whilst people may say GW manipulation, in universe manipulation is surely a possibility too? At the original question, can you break Tau DNA effectively? Maybe the reason that the Kroot work alongside the Tau is simply because they can't assimilate Tau DNA, for whatever reason...